The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is a country in East Asia, located in the northern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering South Korea and China. Its capital, Pyongyang, is the country's largest city by both land area and population. It is a single-party state led by the Korean Workers' Party (KWP), and governed by Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un since 2012. It has a population of 24,052,231 (UN-assisted DPRK census 2008) made up of Koreans and a smaller Chinese minority. Japan 'opened' Korea in 1876 and annexed it in 1910. The Republic of Korea (ROK) was founded with US support in the south in August 1948 and the Soviet-backed Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the north in September that year.
Swedish firm denies selling North Korea snow cannons
When North Korea's state media last week issued pictures of leader Kim Jong-un visiting a new ski field he ordered built, one firm in Sweden couldn't believe what it was seeing.
Its snow cannons were being used to coat the slopes of the Masik Pass Ski Resort in white - despite European Union sanctions meant to prevent impoverished North Korea getting its hands on luxury goods and equipment.
"I have no idea how they turned up in North Korea. We did not sell them directly to North Korea," the chief of the Areco company, Johan Erling, told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.
Kim last Tuesday took a ride up a ski lift in the resort, a pet project he had built with "lightning speed" and which he claimed was "the centre of the world's attention", North Korean state media reported.
Pictures of the resort showed some of its reported 110 kilometres of ski runs, a hotel, heliport and cable cars - and, in some of them, Areco's snow cannons.
Erling said he had called Areco's reseller in China, who assured him "he hadn't sold snow cannons there".
The machines were therefore likely second-hand and difficult to trace, Erling concluded.
The North Korean resort made headlines in August when Switzerland blocked a US$7.6 million sale of ski lifts to Pyongyang, calling it a "propaganda project" for the regime.
But North Korea's leader has been undeterred in trying to portray his country as host of a string of "world-class" leisure parks.
In October, Kim opened a water-park complex with indoor and outdoor pools, slides and saunas. In September, he watched films at a new "4D" cinema in a renovated amusement park, where he also rode a roller coaster.